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Turn The Page (Closed)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Excalbia
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Turn The Page (Closed)

Postby Excalbia » Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:38 am

Sweyn Castle
Citadel Excalbia
Two Weeks Ago


“Thank you, Baron Dainis,” the Emperor said nodding with approval as he gathered up his briefing papers and prepared to hand them back to his Chancellor. “Is there anything else?”

The Imperial Chancellor looked down at his own papers and shuffled them nervously. “There is one additional… issue, Sir.” He looked up, struggling to extinguish a sigh.

“What is it?” David IV raised an eyebrow and leaned “back in his chair.

“Well, Sir,” Baron Dainis Murniece said after swallowing hard, “allow me to say that I raise this reluctantly and only at the insistence of Lady Jenolyn… your Chamberlain…”

David snorted. “I can guess the topic, then. Suniefreda Hoogaboom.” He stood and folded his arms behind his back. Murnience followed suit. “I have told… the Chamberlain that my son’s choice in romantic partner is beyond the scope of the Imperial Household Agency. Do I now need to tell you that it remains beyond that of your Government, Baron Dainis?”

“Not at all, Sir.” Murniece said. “I agree, actually. However, Lady Jenolyn did raise her concerns with me, and as promised, I raised the issue with the Cabinet. And…” the Chancellor paused. “And the Cabinet also has… legitimate concerns about the… diplomatic, national security and… intelligence implications of an Imperial Prince marrying into the family of a communist autocrat. No matter how… cooperative that autocrat has been in the recent past. In particular, the Defence Ministry and Imperial Intelligence are concerned about the possibility that, should Daytanistan choose to resume its aggression in Marks that… regardless of recent alliances, Anahuac would be ideologically compelled to support Daytanistan. That would place Prince James… and the Sword in an awkward position…”

The Emperor’s shoulders slumped and he turned to face Murniece. “I understand,” he said after a long pause. “However, James is a grown man. I will not tell him who he can or cannot love.” He paced for several minutes. “That said, as a grown man, he can weigh these things himself.” He drew in a sharp breath. “You and Lady Jenolyn have my leave to raise this directly with James. Explain the full implications. I’m sure he’ll make the right decision in the end, no matter how difficult it might be.”

Murniece bowed. “Very well, Your Imperial Majesty. I will do as you say. Thank you. And, I am sorry to have had to raise this with you…”

The Emperor smiled thinly. “You know, Baron Dainis,” he said, “I had my doubts about you.” The Chancellor’s face fell and the color drained from his face. “That is no aspersion against you,” the Emperor chuckled, “I doubt all my Chancellors at first; as my wife has observed, I do not enthusiastically embrace change. However, you handled this well. Or at least as well as possible.”
Last edited by Excalbia on Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Excalbia
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Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:00 am

The Imperial Palace, Offices of the Imperial Household Agency
Citadel Excalbia
Ten Days Ago


Lady Jenolyn Tremane, the Imperial Chamberlain, and Baroness Vivian Bodniece, the Minister of State, both stood and bowed slightly as Prince James entered the office.

“Thank you for coming, Your Imperial Highness,” Lady Jenolyn said. She gestured towards a seat across from where she and the Minister of State had been sitting.

“Of course, Lady Jenolyn,” the Prince said with a nod. He took his seat and the two ladies took theirs. “It’s not every day that I get an invitation from the Chamberlain and the Minister of State. I must admit that I’m curious…” He crossed his legs and straightened his grey sports coat, which he wore over a blue shirt with no tie.

The Chamberlain folded her hands in her lap. “Unfortunately, Your Highness,” she paused and swallowed, “we need to discuss a rather… personal matter with you.”

“Personal?” James’ eyebrows rose.

“Yes,” Lady Jenolyn said. “Unfortunately, as a member of the Imperial Family your personal affairs are not entirely private…”

James’ brows knitted together and her frowned. “What do you mean?”

The Chamberlain looked to Baroness Vivian. The Minister shifted in her seat, then said, “Your Imperial Highness, your… relationship with Ms. Hoogaboom has certain… implications for our foreign policy and have raised concerns in the Cabinet…”

“My… relationship with Sunie is, pardon my bluntness, Baroness, none of your f***ing business,” the Prince said, leaning forward and gripping the arms of his chair.

The Baroness’ face flushed red and she bit her lip. With a deep breath, she leaned forward. “With all due respect, Your Imperial Highness, it is the business of the Government. If you were to… continue this relationship to its logical conclusion and marry Ms. Hoogaboom, it would be a marriage between the ruling family of the Excalbian Empire and that of Communist Anahuac. What do you think would happen then if, for instance, Daytanistan were to attack Brasland? We are bound by treaty to aid in their defence. Anahauc might feel obliged by reasons of ideology to come to the aid of its fellow communist state. What then? Your father’s state would be at war with your grandfather-in-law’s state. What then?”

James’ face reddened and he planted both feet firmly on the floor. “Is that the official position of the Government?” He looked to Lady Jenolyn. “And of the IHA? Have you discussed this with my father?”

Lady Jenolyn leaned forward, and spoke softly and deliberately. “Your Highness, we all share these concerns. I did raise them with Baron Dainis and the Cabinet. And he did have a conversation with His Imperial Majesty…”

“I can’t believe that my father supports this!”

“I understand that… His Imperial Majesty took no position on the matter and told the Chancellor that we should discuss our concerns with you and allow you to make your own decision.”

The Prince stood. “I’ve made my decision. Thank you.” He clenched his fists. “More than ever, I know that I love Sunie. I will marry her. And, with all due respect, My Lady, Baroness, you can go to Hell. And take the Cabinet and the IHA with you.”

James turned and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
Last edited by Excalbia on Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Cyretopolitania
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Founded: Apr 27, 2011
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Cyretopolitania » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:27 am

Royal Palace
Cyretia, Cyretopolitania
Nine Days Ago


“I’ve been thinking about our sweet, little Ilizibith, my dear,” Dowager Queen Safiya said as she idly fiddled with the oversized bracelet on her right wrist.

“Oh,” Queen Samia said, looking up from the book laying open across her lap. “How so?”

“Well, my dear, it is time to give some thought to a suitable match for Ilizibith, now that we have Agizul married off to that pasty Ernestine girl.”

The Queen sighed and gave her mother-in-law a sideways glance. “Yulia is quite sweet and quite pretty. A good match for Agizul. They seem as happy as John and Irene.”

“Of course, of course, my dear,” the Dowager said, “it is a good match. Cements a good relationship with the Ernestines. I was just remarking that they are all quite pale. And weak chinned. And those noses… A family trait it seems, despite having Cyretian and Excalbian blood…”

“You were talking about Ilizibith, Mother.”

“Yes, yes, my dear. We should think about her match.”

“She seems rather taken with young Peter. From Brasland. He seems entirely smitten with her.”

“Yes, I know. Alexandra’s great nephew.” The Dowager smiled and leaned forward. “He is rather hot-headed, I understand…”

“He is passionate.”

“Ha! Passionate! He had a fight in the desert with Michael! And he or Ilizibith are always storming off from each other… when they’re not slinking away to slobber over each other.”

Samia arched an eyebrow. “No one is supposed to know about the fight, Mother! Or the… kissing, shall we say. Ilizibith would be mortified!”

The Dowager laughed. “There are no secrets in this palace, my dear. You know that!”

“In any case, they seem quite happy with each other now, Mother.”

“Maybe, my dear. But we have one marriage link to Brasland - and at a higher station! We should not be so quick to let Ilizibith succumb to her first serious suiter. We should explore other options.”

“And what other options do you have in mind, Mother?”

“My sources tell me that James, cousin David’s youngest son, may be… on the market again.”

“The last I heard, he was with that Anahuacan girl… Hoogaboom’s granddaughter… what was her name? Sunny? Sunni? They seemed quite happy together…”

“Maybe so, my dear, but the Imperial Household is not happy. I wager they will put a stop to it. A match with James, reinforcing our ties to Excalbia, might be a good one.”

The Queen frowned slightly. “I am continually… amazed at your sources, Mother.” She closed her book. “If James does… break things off with Ms. Hoogaboom, I would certainly not object to extending him an invitation to come to Cyretia.” She smiled. “I like Peter, but I do agree that Ilizibith should not necessarily commit to her first serious romance; it would do her good to see other potential suitors before making any decisions.”

“Yes! Exactly!” The Dowager smiled. She leaned over and patted her daughter-in-law on the knee. “I knew you would agree!”
Last edited by Cyretopolitania on Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Brasland
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Founded: May 16, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Brasland » Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:39 pm

Royal Palace
Cyretia


Two children were playing with each other, while their mother, sitting on the edge of a fountain, happily watched them. The placid scene took place on one of the open courtyards of the palace’s western wing, where the Crown Prince and his family lived.

“Mama, George is pulling my hair!”, complained the girl, angry.

Princess Irene stood up and approached them, taking the boy in her arms.

“No, darling”, she told her son. “We don’t pull Victoria’s hair.”

The boy did not look very impressed, and instead showed his tongue to his older sister. Irene frowned.

“George, we talked about this. There will be no dessert for you if you behave this way.”

“Ice-cream”, replied the boy.

“Not if you pull your sister’s hair.”

“Sorry, Mama”, apologized George.

The princess could not help but smile. George was a natural charmer.

“That’s better, darling”, she replied, trying to sound serious.

As Irene played with her children, Shayma Abensur walked in, curtseying her mistress. She looked confused.

“Is everything alright?”, Irene asked her lady-in-waiting.

“May I speak with you privately, my lady?”, asked Shayma.

The Crown Princess gestured to one of the maids to approach and take care of the children. She went inside the palace, to an antechamber where she usually received Confession from Cardinal Mzali.

“What’s going on? You’re worrying me.”

“It’s nothing terrible, just that I heard something I shouldn’t have.”

She proceeded to tell Irene of how she accidentally heard the word ‘Brasland’ as she was walking near the grapevine and, worried that it might have something to do with her mistress, she secretly listened the conversation between the two queens, Safiya and Samia.

“Shayma! That’s awful, it’s so unlike you to do such a thing”, exclaimed Irene, scandalized.

“I know, I didn’t mean to, but I did not know Her Majesties where the ones talking until it was too late”, explained the lady-in-waiting.

Irene put her hand in one of her cheeks.

“Oh, this is so distressing”, she sighed. “Poor Peter, he adores Ilizibith…”

“I think Her Majesty the Queen Dowager may be right”, admitted Shayma. “It would be good for the princess to meet other people, not just accept the first suitor that comes along.”

The Crown Princess raised an eyebrow. “Well, I did precisely that, and I don’t regret it.”

Shayma’s cheeks turned red. “I’m sorry, my lady”, she mumbled, embarrassed.

“Forget it, I understand your intentions”, said Irene. “Grandmother may have a point, but Peter is my cousin, and he lost his mother just a few months ago. Losing Ilizibith would be another terrible blow for him. Oh, Shayma, I don’t know what to do! I can’t undermine the Queen and the Queen Dowager’s plans, but if I remain silent I’d be betraying my own blood.”

“You should wait, my lady. The Excalbian has not broken up with this girl yet. This may just be one of those failed plans that never come to fruition. Her Majesty Queen Safiya is always looking for something to do, a project to set her energy on. Don’t risk your good relations with the two queens for something that will probably not happen.”

“I guess you’re right”, Irene replied. “For now.”
Last edited by Brasland on Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Excalbia
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Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:32 am

The Penthouse Residence of Lord Tariq
City of Landing, Excalbia
Today


Bass throbbed through the floor of the main hall as a hip, up-and-coming band performed on the stage in front of the open double-height glass doors that opened onto the spacious patio beyond. Dancers gyrated in the main hall as couples and small groups drifted onto the patio where all of Landing seemed spread out beneath them. Above the main hall, Tariq, Lord of Mezciems, sat in a lavishly upholstered oversized chair on the balcony watching his guests enjoy themselves.

Since taking up permanent residence in the Empire Tower, Landing’s tallest residential building, Tariq had hosted almost nightly parties in his multi-story penthouse. The guests typically included the Empire’s most notable young, wealthy and beautiful citizens - actors, singers, dancers, the adult children of the nobility and a wide sampling of the city’s young professionals. There was also a steady stream of “party-crashers’ - university students and other young adults without an invitation - who met the Lord of Mezciems’ criteria for admission. That meant looking and dressing the part and being old enough - over 20 - and young enough - under 30.

Tariq listened absentmindedly as a group of young celebrities famous enough to be invited to the balcony blathered on about the latest gossip. He smiled and laughed at the appropriate times, storing everything away for later use, even as he scanned the crowd below for anyone who might catch his interest.

Dace Gailitis certainly met Tariq’s criteria for an authorized party-crasher. She was in her mid-twenties with an athletic, trim figure and dressed in a short red dress with a daring neckline and matching heels. Her brownish blonde hair fell about her shoulders in well-coiffed waves.

Tariq recognized her immediately as an agent of IHA, which meant she should not be dancing with wild abandon in his main hall. He picked up a tablet and quickly called up her name - his private security kept close track of who was admitted to his nightly diversions - and saw that, despite her dancing, she was drinking only soda water and ginger ale. He taped her name twice, highlighting it in green.

Within a few moments, a far more modestly dressed woman casually walked over to Dace and tapped her on the shoulder. She leaned and whispered in the young woman’s ear, turning at one point to gesture towards Tariq’s perch on the balcony. The Lord of Mezciems smiled and waved and within minutes, Dace was being led up the private stairs to the balcony.

“Good evening, Ms. Gailitis, Tariq said with a smile and a sweeping gesture of his hands. “I hope you’ll join me.” He gestured to the seat beside him.

“I’d be honored, my lord,” Dace said smiling and brushing a strand of hair out of her face.

Tariq turned to his other guests. “Would you excuse me for a little while?”

The gaggle of celebrities smiled and nodded. A few of the men winked as they all made their way down the stairs to a lower balcony.

“Would you care for some champagne, Ms. Gailitis or would you like to stick with the ginger ale?” Tariq turned in his chair, drawing his legs up into the seat and leaning close to Dace.

“You have been keeping tabs on me, my lord.”

“Oh, please call me Tariq, Dace. May I call you Dace?” Tariq smiled and eased closer.

“Of course, Tariq. I’d be honored.” Dace smiled and sipped the glass she had brought her. “But you have been keeping tabs.”

“Of course, Dace,” he said smiling broadly. “But so have you. I didn’t know the IHA allowed their agents to party with their protectees.”

Dace leaned closer, keeping her smile in place. “You’re a special case, Tariq. Most of our agents can’t get very close to you with your personal security. So, some… exceptions have been made.” She looked down slightly. “I’m not technically on duty or i wouldn’t be here, but I was… encouraged to come to your party…”

“To report back?”

Dace nodded. “Yes. But only if I see anything that compromises your security. I haven’t seen anything like that.”

Tariq chuckled. “Well, I’m glad of that, Dace.” He leaned back in his chair and picked up a fluted glass. “So, if you’re not officially on duty, then why don’t you indulge in a little champagne?”

Dace shrugged. “I guess I like to stay in control.”

“So do I.” Tariq smiled again and sipped his drink.

“That’s not your reputation…”

“Ah, yes.” Tariq took another sip. “I know. I do enjoy my amusements.”

“And am I amusing to you, Tariq?”

“I don’t know, Dace. Are you?”

The young agent smiled and sipped from her glass.

Tariq set down his glass, stood and extended his hand to Dace. “Let’s dance,” he said.

Dace set down her glass, took Tariq’s hand and climbed out of her chair. “Yes, let’s.”

Tariq led her down to the lower balcony where they joined the celebrities and a smattering of nobles who were already paired off and dancing.
Last edited by Excalbia on Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Excalbia
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Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:36 pm

Sweyn Castle
Citadel Excalbia
Ten Days Ago


The red two-door coupe roared up the cliff, tires squealing as it took the switchbacks in the road well above the posted speed limit. As it approached the gates of Sweyn Castle, the guards on duty momentarily tensed about the car screeched to a halt.The guard closest to the driver looked inside the car and immediately came to attention.

“Your Imperial Highness,” he said with a salute. “We weren’t expecting you…”

Prince James nodded silently and the guard turned to his compatriot. “Open the gate!”

The gates opened and James stepped on the gas, sending the car speeding towards the Castle’s private parking lot, which was obscured from public view.

Minutes later, James was rushing down the halls, practically running, towards his suite. His phone was in his hand and he was frantically scrolling as he turned a corner and practically ran into his older brother, Crown Prince Joseph.

“James,” Joseph said, grabbing his brother by both shoulders.

“Joseph? What’re you doing here? I thought you’d be at the Summer Palace…”

“I was doing some work, until a few minutes ago. Actually, I was just looking for you.”

“Looking for me?”

“Lady Jenolyn called me…”

James’ face flushed. “Of course!” He tore himself away from Joseph’s grip. “I should have known you’d be behind this.”

“I’m not behind anything, James,” Joseph said resting his hands on his hips. “Lady Jenolyn was worried about your reaction…”

“My reaction to her and the damned IHA trying to interfere in my relationship with Sunie! They want me to break up with her!”

“James, they weren’t trying to make you do anything. They just wanted you to think…”

“Think like them!” James backed away from his brother. “Think like you!”

“James, we all have to think about our duty…”

“To Hell with your duty, Joseph. And to Hell with you.”

“James…” Joseph reached out for his brother.

“Leave me the **** alone, Joseph! Don’t act like you care. You never approved of Sunie! And you’ve never given a **** about me! So, leave me the **** alone!”

Joseph frowned. “James…”

The younger prince backed further away from his brother and turned to run down another hall, taking a circuitous route back to his own suite.
Last edited by Excalbia on Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Excalbia
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Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:31 am

Offices of the Imperial Household Agency
The Imperial Palace
Citadel Excalbia
Two Weeks Ago


Dace Gailitis walked into the office and folded her arms behind her back. “You asked to see me, Ma’am,” she said.

“Yes, yes,” thank you, Inga Pulmanis said looking up from her computer screen. “Please have a seat.”

Dace sat, resting her hands on her knees. She looked intently at the Second Deputy Sheriff of the Citadel, who was the third-ranking security officer of the Imperial Household Agency and Dace’s boss’ boss. The older woman’s face, however, was unreadable.

“What can I do for you, Ma’am?”

Pulmanis leaned back in her seat. “We’re transferring you to the Landing Field Office, Gailitis.”

“Landing, Ma’am?”

“Yes,” the Second Deputy Sheriff leaned forward and handed a folder to Dace, “we need you on Lord Tariq’s detail. He has retained the services of a private security firm at his residence in the city, limiting our access.”

“But, Ma’am,” Dace said, “in that case shouldn’t he be well protected already?”

Pulmanis sighed. “Gailitis, you should be aware that we protect not only the individual members of the Imperial Family, but also the Imperial Family as an institution. This requires… keeping an eye on their reputations. Even when they don’t. Perhaps, even more so when they don’t.”

Dace lifted an eyebrow and frowned. “And my assignment…?”

Pulmanis gave a thin, humorless smile. “Lord Tariq hosts almost nightly parties. You are the perfect match for the… type his guards admit without an invitation…”

“I am to be an infiltrator?” Dace’s frown deepened. “And what else?” She asked as she wrung her hands.

“We are not asking you to do anything improper or unethical, Gailitis. No, we simply want to… encourage you… on your own time, of course, not while on official duty… to attend a few of his lordship’s parties. And report back if you observe anything… troubling. Whether in terms of his lordship’s security… or his reputation. Can you do that for us?”

“And that’s all… ?”

“Yes. Of course.” Pulmanis smiled.

“Alright…”

“Good. Good.”

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The Resurgent Dream
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Posts: 976
Founded: Aug 22, 2004
Left-Leaning College State

Postby The Resurgent Dream » Wed Sep 09, 2020 9:11 pm

Dame Emma Holt brought the flute of wine to her lips. She was the better part of a year older than Tariq’s cut off but, fortunately for her, she was also an international pop sensation on a tour of the Excalbian Isles suggested by the Emperor himself. Dame Emma was 180 cm even without the high-heeled thigh-high black boots she was wearing. She was hard to miss in the crowd. Tonight she was on the arm of Walter Budrys, one of her dancers, and accompanied by four other prominent Caldans, Prince Adrew of Huntingdon, Claudia McGarry, Biance Ferrera, and Raymond Howard. Prince Andrew and Raymond were dressed in civilian suits in the latest Excalbian style while Claudia wore a black minidress and Bianca a white one. “This is the place to be in Citadel Excalbia!” Walter said with a little too much excitement.

“It’s just nice to get out again!” Bianca commented. She had been in a health facility for the last few weeks.

“I like the music,” Raymond said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and pulling her closer. The two of them rocked back and forth to the beat for a few moments.

Emma smiled. “It’s a party. I normally don’t do stuff like this on tour. This one talked me into it!” She elbowed Prince Andrew as if to indicate which ‘one’ she meant.

“I did want some introductions in Excalbia,” Andrew said. “I’m starting to get frustrated at home.”

Claudia spoke quickly, as if seeking to change the subject, gripping tighter on Prince Andrew’s arm. “I’ve never been to Excalbia before. There’s a lot to see.”

“There is…” Andrew agreed reluctantly.

“I know you don’t want to look like a tourist,” Claudia conceded.

“We won’t,” Andrew said, placing his hands to either side of her face and drawing her in for a soft kiss. “Shall we dance then?”

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Excalbia
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Founded: Antiquity
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:53 am

Like Dame Emma Holt, Lilita Vegere was a little above Lord Tariq’s walk-in age limit; however, the striking movie star was a frequent attendee of his nightly parties. She stood at a table in the corner of the lower balcony’s VIP dance floor with her friend, Julia Sinclair, a social media influencer who seemed to be famous mostly for being famous.

“I was a little put-off when they told me I’d only be in the framing sequences,” Vegere said sipping at her cocktail, “but in hindsight, that’s where all the character development took place…”

“Right,” Sinclair said, flicking a strand of hair out of her face, “you were amazing in those scenes; you brought out a depth to the character that no one’s seen before.”

Vegere nodded, putting down her glass and straightening her figure-flattering deep blue dress. “I know. It really gave me a chance to exercise some acting muscles I’d forgotten I had! I’d just about given up giving UltraWoman any real depth…”

“So how was it working with Digne?” Sinclair asked, naming Digne Krauliene, the young actress who played the younger UltraWoman in the recently-released UltraWoman Begins.

“I didn’t really see her much; we didn’t have any scenes together. I didn’t expect to like her, but we spent some time together while we were promoting the movie at Comic-Con. She’s a nice enough kid.”

Sinclair nodded. “Well, I think you deserve a nomination this time. You really were amazing.”

Vegere smiled. “Well, please tell the Academy!”

At the other side of the dance floor, Mercy Oladipo, a young Epheronian-Excalbian singer, was dancing with William Indulis, the son of the Baron of Baltavirstone.

“So,” Indulis asked, “how long have you known Tariq?”

“Not quite a year,” Oladipo said as she moved with the beat of the music, “he saw me perform at Club Narwhal and sent a note backstage. Said he really liked how I combined hip hop beats with traditional Excalbian stylings. Since then, he’s had me perform here a dozen times or so, and has introduced me to a lot of producers and music execs.”

“Sounds like Tariq,” Indulis said as he matched the singer move for move. “Did he date you, too?”

“Oh, briefly,” Oladipo laughed. “Then we both decided helping my career as a friend was better.”

“Sounds like Tariq, too.”

“He is quite handsome and charming, though.”

“That he is.” The young man glanced over at their host as he danced with a young woman. “Too bad he’s strictly into girls.”

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Providencia y San Andres
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Posts: 67
Founded: Jun 10, 2018
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Providencia y San Andres » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:49 am

Penthouse Apartment of Lord Tariq
Landing, Citadel Excalbia


Infanta Letizia Isabelle Maria de Habsburg, youngest daughter of King Carlos III, climbed the stairs to the VIP balcony above the main hall of Lord Tariq’s penthouse apartment. She had not had an invitation, but she did have a royal pedigree. She was also young enough, pretty enough and stylish enough to be admitted even if she had not had the pedigree. Rosalia Maria de Carvajal y Garza, the Countess of Santa Tecla and the Infanta’s lady-in-waiting, climbed the stairs beside Letizia. Just slightly older than Letizia, Rosalia was dressed as stylishly, though perhaps a little modestly, as the Infanta.

Reaching the balcony, Letizia helped herself to a glass of champagne being offered by a member of the wait staff. She stepped to one side, allowing Rosalia to take a glass for herself, then smiled at the waiter. “Thank you,” she said, in a pleasant tone that defied her long-standing reputation.

“This is quite… the party, Letty, is it not?” Rosalia felt like she was shouting to be heard over the band below.

“Yes, yes it is!” Letizia looked around. “So many notables, Rosalia! Look, Dame Emma. The woman who plays that superhero in the movies.” She paused. “And Lord Tariq.”

“He is quite handsome, Letty.”

Letizia nodded, then turned suddenly to Rosalia. “Don’t look too much! I don’t want him to know we’re looking at him.”

The Countess did not think Tariq was paying any attention to them, considering that he was dancing rather provocatively with another young woman, but she nodded and smiled at the Infanta anyway. “Of course,” she said as she sipped her drink.

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Uncle Noel
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 121
Founded: Antiquity
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Uncle Noel » Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:08 pm

Private Apartments of the General Secretary
Ayotochco Palace


Noel Hoogaboom lay alone on his bed. Around him was assembled the detritus of age; letters of commendation and official photographs and medals from men who had been dead for so long that they existed now only in footnotes. Shelves heaved with pills and lotions, medicine and tonics, not all of it available to denizens of the region and (whisper it) not all of it from this particular Modern-Tech corner of reality, all of which were designed to keep him going.

He adjusted his glasses and squinted at the notepad in front of him. Here, in the privacy of this inner sanctum, he looked old. He felt old. Old and tired. A man continuing for the sake of continuing. There was a knock upon the door. He looked at the clock next to his bed. ‘Punctual as always.’ he thought as he heaved himself into a sitting position. “Come,” he said, his voice undiminished by the ravages of time.

Suniefreda Hoogboom entered gingerly. Even family were seldom invited to the private quarters, not since Grandmother passed away. She looked about the space for a moment before seeing her grandfather, shorn of jacket and tie, sitting on the bed. “Hello oupa,” she said in not-exactly a cheery pitch, “You wanted to see me?”

The General Secretary said nothing but beckoned her across to a threadbare chair that sat opposite his bed. Sunie almost crept across the room as though her presence, though invited, violated the space. The chair creaked as she sat while her grandfather regarded her keenly. “So er what is it that you wanted to…..” she trailed off, the General Secretary’s gaze withering the sentence before it had even left her. He tapped the notepad that lay at his side.

“Do you know what this is Sunie?” he asked. She shook her head. “This,” he picked it up, “Is, or will be, my speech to the Party Congress.” The Constitutional Socialist Party Congress had been scheduled to take place in May but, due to corona-unpleasantness, had been postponed until October.

“Oh,” said Sunie, unsure of what to say, “That’s nice.”

He ignored her. “In accepting my election as General Secretary,” the result was a foregone conclusion, “I intend to announce that this will be my last five year term.”

She could not prevent her mouth from hanging open in shock. “But oupa,” she began, “You can’t, I mean, what would we do..” He leaned across and patted her knee with a frail-looking hand. “Sunie,” he said in a kindly voice, “In a few short years I will be one hundred. This year is the 40th anniversary of my taking office. I think it is time that someone else shouldered the burden.”

She shook her head. “But if you go then….”

“Then the circling vultures will move in? Oh I know. They’ll move before then once they’ll know I am leaving. Have you ever read any of that English poet, Tennyson?”

“No, I can’t say I have.”

“Authority forgets a dying king, he wrote, or something like that. The point is that the manoeuvres have already begun. They will only get worse. "

A silence fell between them punctuated only by the clock striking thirteen. Sunie looked awkwardly at her shoe."Does that mean that.."

"Tlacualchihua. He's deputy General Secretary. He's a good head on his shoulders and it is important for the Tochtepecs to see that the Party isn't a white man's concern."

Sunie, privy to information that had been debated and discussed for years, could do nothing but nod. The clock continued to strike.

“Why,” hesitated Suniefreda, “Do I get the impression that there is a ‘but’ about to appear?”

The General Secretary (for now) laughed. “I can’t get anything past you, can I?” The laugh passed and his face became sombre. “But you’re right. Mathias is a bureaucrat, and I do not mean that as an insult, because the Fiefdom is a bureaucratic state. But he lacks a fire in his belly and he does not respond well to confrontation. He is happiest amongst spreadsheets and production figures. But leadership, Sunie, is more than that, much more.” He leaned forward. “We are at a critical point. You know the dangers that lie ahead.”

She nodded. “Spode.”

“Not just Spode,” he clenched one hand, “On one side there is Voss and the ideologues who want to turn us back to the old days. You are much too young to remember what it was like under the first Spode but it was a drab, grey time of famines and shortages and purges, where a knock on the door was often the last thing people heard. We cannot go back to that.”

She could not help herself from shuddering. He clenched his other hand. “And then, as you say, there are the younger Spodes, the Princelings, who would turn the party into an empty vehicle for their ambition and greed. Their only principal is money; money and power. This is supposed to be a dictatorship of the proletariat, if they had their way it would be a coven of plutocrats.”

A pained look came upon her face. “What is to be done?”

Her grandfather smiled a queer smile. “Tell me, Suniefreda Hoogaboom, have you ever been to Tecoloapan?”

“Uilenstroom?” she asked using the Valdrician name for the town, “No, why?”

“You should, you are going to be elected as one of their representatives to the Volkskammer next week.”

She blinked in shock. “What?”

“And do you still have your party membership?” She nodded. “Good, because during the Congress you are to be nominated for the Central Committee, and in turn to the Politburo.”

Sunie’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t understand?”

“Oh come come,” replied her grandfather, “Must I explain everything? Old Tulga has been begging me to allow him to retire. I have now relented; the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs needs fresh blood and new ideas.”

“You mean?”

“Yes Sunie, you are to be his replacement.”

She looked about. “But I don’t know anything about foreign affairs.”

“The staff there will brief you. I am sure you will pick it up in no time.”

For once she was lost for words. “Well, thank you,” she stammered, “But why?”

“Why? Because someone needs to keep Tlacualchihua on the path, and I can think of no one better.”

“Why me though?”

“Come on Sunie,” he explained, a note of exasperation entering into his voice, “Anyone else they will move against but you, you are protected.”

“But you won’t be around.”

“I’m retiring Sunie, I have no intention of dying.”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, I don’t know what to say. I mean, well, thank you, I won’t..” The General Secretary raised a finger. She stopped.

“There is,” he intoned, “A price to be paid.”

An eyebrow raised. “What?”

He paused for a moment. “James…….”

“No!”

“...it is for the best….”

“No!”

“...it would never have worked.”

She jumped to her feet. “But I thought you liked him!?”

“I do,” he protested, “He is a fine young man, with many admirable qualities. But Sunie you must see reason. What does he offer you? Really? Marry him and you will turn your back on your country. And for what? So that you can spend the rest of your life opening Youth Centres in Excalbia? Attending banquets in the tiaras of dead empresses? Is that the sort of life you want?”

Tears welled in her eyes. “But we talked about it. He always knew that his family might not approve and...and,” she sniffed, “He was prepared to walk away. From being a Prince.”

“Sunie,” snapped the General Secretary, the shallow pools of his patience beginning to drain, “Listen to yourself. You think he would throw it all away? For what, so he can be the husband of a minister?” There was a hard look in his eyes. “And be realistic Sunie, the position I am offering you is burdened with hard decisions and difficult choices.”

He leaned back. “What if another rebellion sweeps down from the Centzontepecs? Or Snefaldia makes a push for the Mallen lands? Or a provincial apparatchik goes too far and the Tochtepecs take to the streets? We both know what that could mean. Not every course of action we take is palatable to the drawings rooms of Citadel Excalbia. This isn’t Caldas Sunie, you can’t solve everything by sitting in a circle and talking about your feelings.

And could you do that to him? Can you imagine it, with the Excalbian government screaming, and their bourgeois press crying betrayal? What would you ask of him? That he sat by and said nothing? Could he? Or would that noblesse oblige I hear so much about require him to speak out?

He is a nice boy, Sunie, a nice boy. But this is not a nice game we are playing here. Can you do that to him?”

She wept softly. “No,” she croaked, as she collapsed back onto the chair

He placed a conciliatory hand upon her knee. “It is hard, no one ever said it wouldn’t be, but the truth of historical materialism teaches that the sacrifices we make today will be rewarded in time.”

She lurched forward, her head in her hands, as almost every fibre in her being wanted to scream at the gross injustice of it all. Almost. For deep within Suniefreda Hoogaboom, buried so deeply that perhaps it lay beyond the confines of her conscious mind, was a hard kernel of self-interest. Success in the Fiefdom was not something that fell from the lap of fickle fate or as a reward for the hardworking and righteous. To be successful, to get on in life, required planning every bit as meticulous as any pig iron production figure. To reap a harvest required seeds to be sown years before. This was a golden rule of Anahuac, and Sunie had planted.

You only had to look at what she called herself, for her papers gave her name as Isabea Suniefreda Emeric, but her grandfather had liked her middle name more and so that was what stuck. Emeric was her father’s name, but as soon as she was able she took as her own her mother’s maiden name; Hoogaboom.

She loved her grandfather, truly she did. But perhaps a lone streak of self-awareness made her realise that she had cultivated him as much as he had cultivated her.

And so she wept, mostly for James but also for herself. She loved him, but in her heart of hearts she knew that she loved the promise of power more. For it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for a place on the Politburo.
Last edited by Uncle Noel on Fri Sep 11, 2020 8:49 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Cyretopolitania
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 163
Founded: Apr 27, 2011
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Cyretopolitania » Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:38 am

Royal Palace
Cyretia, Cyretopolitania
Four Days Ago


“Excalbia?” Princess Ilizibith turned her head to one side and looked down at her mother, who was seated on her daybed next to the large open window. “I like traveling, so I really don’t mind going, but why such a hurry? And why Landing? We have never been… close to Cousin Tariq…”

Queen Samia smiled and sighed. “Oh, Ilizibith.” She patted the seat beside her. “Join me.’

Ilizibith walked over to the day, smoothed out her dress and sat beside her mother. “Is something wrong?”

“No, not at all, my dear.” The Queen paused. “I just thought this would be easier. But I’ve always tried to be honest with you…”

Ilizibith knotted her brows and frowned slightly. “What is it? You’re worrying me…”

The Queen patted her daughter on the leg. “Your grandmother and I had a conversation about your relationship with Peter. And I spoke with your father…”

“Mother!”

“Ilizibith, don’t get upset.” The Queen took her daughter’s hand. “You’re a princess. And you’re young. I know you have… strong feelings for Peter, and he for you. But, first of all, he’s your first serious boyfriend, so we think it may be a little… early to make any permanent commitments without… considering your options…”

“Options?”

“And, as a princess, your marriage will not be solely a personal matter. It will have political and diplomatic implications.”

“We’re friends with Brasland…”

“Yes, of course we are. And Irene is a Braslander. So, it might be wise to consider… whether it would be prudent to look beyond Brasland for a husband…”

Ilizibith stood. “Mother, I’m not… looking… for a husband. But I am in love with Peter. And…” She paused. “Oh, my God. You want to match me with Tariq!?”

The Queen stood. “No, not Tariq.” She paused. “James. Emperor David’s youngest son. You know him.”

“But.” Ilizibith’s eyes widened, “he’s practically engaged to Sunie Hoogaboom…”

The Queen shook her head. “Not anymore, my dear.”

Ilizibith stared vacantly.

“Now, ilizibith, we’re not suggesting that you… have… to marry James. Or not marry Peter. We just want you to… spend some time with James. Other princes frequently visit Tariq, as well. Meet some of them. Get to know James. And consider what is best. If, in the end, you tell us that what you want, that what you think is best for you… and for Cyretia… is Peter. Well, then, you shall have Peter. OK?”

Ilizibith looked down. “OK, Mother.”

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Pantocratoria
Diplomat
 
Posts: 715
Founded: Antiquity
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Pantocratoria » Sat Sep 12, 2020 10:32 am

Penthouse Apartment of Lord Tariq
Landing, Citadel Excalbia


Marie-Angelique de Votosoros ticked all of the eligibility boxes. She was in her late twenties, impeccably well-born, fabulously wealthy, and very attractive. As Duchess of Votosoros she had inherited not only huge tracts of land but valuable mineral rights, a residential real estate portfolio consisting of literally whole towns, and billions of ducats in global investments which she had to confess had been very well made and maintained despite the long period of her legal minority during which time a hated board of governors administered it all for her. As a graduate of Hartstad University (with a solid 2.1 GPA) she was better educated than most Pantocratorian noblewomen, and her education had been significantly broader than her degree in Art History suggested. She was confident and liberated, perhaps a not uncommon combination for most of Lord Tariq's guests but quite uncommon among her own people. Perhaps surprisingly, she had been in Citadel Excalbia for just over a week, meeting with some Excalbian start-ups who were courting her as an investor, and found out that Lord Tariq's penthouse was apparently the place to be, and so had come to check it.

The billionaire aristocrat wore a little black dress with matching pumps, and a clutch just big enough to fit her Peacock Phone, lipstick, and compact. She wore simple diamond stud earrings (fairly large diamonds but not extravagantly so) and no other jewellery. Her dark locks were done in a curled bob, and she wore plum lipstick - although her ancestry was a mix of Roman and Frank, tonight's look slightly emphasized the Roman side. She had, of course, her own private security, a local Excalbian firm, but they didn't accompany her into the penthouse itself, loitering instead in the lobby and carpark below. She arrived like any other gatecrasher and forfeited any advantage she may have gained at the entrance by revealing her title and family, giving her name as Marie-Angelique Mouzakina, the name under which she had enrolled at Hartstad.

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Brasland
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Posts: 901
Founded: May 16, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Brasland » Sat Sep 12, 2020 3:59 pm

Schloss Augustenberg
Six months ago…

Princess Juliana was ill. Very ill. Everyone in the schloss knew but no one spoke about it. The family made turns to give company to their wife and mother, while the servants, who adored their mistress, did everything in their power to make her life easier. She was universally loved, and that’s why the mood in Augustenberg was so somber, a strange thing for a place known for the sunny and welcoming disposition of its inhabitants.

Peter arrived that Friday to visit his parents. A year earlier the King had asked him to assume an active role in the royal house, and so his life had become full and busy. In the past a restless, impulsive young man, he was now growing into a role that demanded discipline and restraint, two things which had never been his forte. He was feeling content with his life: he had a purpose, a beautiful girlfriend, a good circle of friends and a family he loved deeply. His brothers and sisters were his friends, and he looked up to his parents as an example, not just as individuals, but as a couple. Everything was good and he felt invincible, as if nothing could cloud his life… until one day his mother told him she had cancer.

At first Peter had rebelled, turning back to the wild boy of the past. That night he went to bed and couldn’t sleep, sobbing for hours until dawn. And that week he threw away months of good behavior and spent every night drowning in alcohol at shady bars in corners of Markund that no nobleman cared – or dared – to visit. He picked every fight he could, he punched every man who crossed him and got himself punched as well. It was his defense mechanism, the only way he could escape from himself and pretend his mother wasn’t sick. He missed all his public engagements, was untraceable for his family, friends and, even worst, for the palace’s staff, which was going crazy about his disappearance. Luckily for him, he was not that well-known, so no one really recognized his face or took his picture. After finally being located, he was simply picked up by a discreet black car sent by the court and taken to Mirsburg Castle, his home in the capital. His mother was there when he arrived, his face swollen and his gaze lost. He looked at her, and tears flowed like a river. Her head, shaven, was covered by a scarf. She tried to smile at him, but he realized she was in pain, and not because of chemotherapy. She was scared for him.

During the eight months after that episode, Peter had matured more than ever before. He knew that his mother needed to see her son pulling himself together, she needed to know that he would be alright if something happened to her. He had to stop being mommy’s boy, even though he would always be mommy’s boy. If he had lacked motivation in the past, now he had it in abundance. Love. He wanted to see that woman happy, not worried.

That Friday, Peter went quickly upstairs to his parents’ apartments in the schloss. His mother was sitting near a bow window, looking at the garden. A tall tree peeked out with its branches just outside the window. Princess Juliana was absorbed by this sight, unaware that her son was looking at her. Peter cleared his throat. She turned to the door where he was standing.

“Darling, come in”, she said, smiling.

She was pale and looked very weak. Her lap was covered with a blanket and Peter wondered how someone could have aged so much in five days, when he had last seen her. He sat in the bed, in front of her, and kissed her cheek.

“You’re feeling unwell, aren’t you?”, he asked, struggling to hide his concern.

Juliana turned her eyes back to the tree. There was no need for words. Peter grabbed her hand, and they stayed silent for a while.

“Are you happy?”, Juliana asked suddenly, turning her gaze back to her son.

“Yes, Mother”, he replied, honestly.

“Does Ilizibith make you happy?”, she asked.

“She does”, he said.

“Do you love her, darling?”

“Yes, I do. Why do…?”

“…Does she love you as well?”, she asked again.

He drew aside from her, standing up and trying to understand why she was asking this all of a sudden.

“She does, Mother. Why…?”

Juliana smiled and took his hand.

“I just want to know that you’ll be alright, Peter…”

“…I’m alright, Mum.”

“… And that you’re with someone who loves you like your father and I love each other.”

“I know, but don’t you like Ilizibith?”

“I do, darling. I just want to make sure that you’re loved.”

“I am”, he said, returning to her side.

It had been a strange conversation, but Peter hid his discomfort, making sure he spent every minute of that day with his mother. It had been a wise decision. That night, she felt bad and was taken to the hospital. The next day, she died.

***


Mirsburg Castle
Markund

The day before…

The Prinzenturm was the main tower of Mirsburg Castle, an old fortress perched on the top of a hill, which in ancient times had protected the lords of Markund from their enemies. The name Prinzenturm meant ‘Tower of Princes’, and it was called so because a few bachelor members of the House of Balkronn had lived there in the past. The King had granted Peter use of the tower after he became an active member of the royal family, and allowed him to renovate and refurbish it to his own taste. It had four levels, and the upper one was his bedroom, a spacious apartment with probably the best view of the city, its river and surrounding hills.

Peter stood near the window, looking at the red rooftops that were so typical of Markund, which from the tower resembled a miniature town. Not an early bird by nature, he followed this ritual every morning. It made it easier to resist the desire to go back to bed, and it also reminded him of his mother, who did the same thing. As he was heading to the bathroom to shave, his mobile phone rang. He looked at the screen. It was Irene.

“Cousin?”, he asked, puzzled. She had never called him before.

“Hi, Peter”, said the feminine voice of the Cyetian Crown Princess from the other side of the line. She sounded tense.

“Hi, Irene”, he replied. “Is everything alright?”

“Peter, what I’m about to tell you is supposed to be confidential”, she began to say. “But I cannot hide it from…”

“Has something happened to Ilizibith?”, the prince interrupted, suddenly worried.

“No, Peter”, she assured him, but then corrected herself. “Or at least nothing bad or tragic, if that’s what you mean. But yes, I’m calling you about her.”

“Alright?”, he said, instinctively disliking the turn of the conversation.

“Cousin, I’m so sorry for not telling you this before, but I wasn’t sure if I should, and the family here will be offended if they find out…”

“Irene, for God’s sake, what the hell is going on?”, shouted the prince, having enough of Irene’s hesitation.

She did not reply immediately, and Peter thought that he had hung up, but finally she spoke.

“Lizzie is on her way to Excalbia. The family…well… they want her to meet Prince James, the Emperor’s youngest son… they want an alliance with the Excalbians…”

His usual self would have reacted passionately, but he just sat on the edge of his bed. He remembered his mother’s words.

I just want to make sure that you’re loved.

“WHAT?!”

“It’s not just that!”, Irene continued, as if what she was about to say would make him feel better. It wouldn’t. “They also think that, well… since you’re only her first boyfriend… they want her to meet other people, to expand her horizons.”

Do you love her, darling?

He knew he loved her, but theirs had been a complicated relationship, full of ups and downs. One thing stuck in his mind, bothering him.

Does she love you as well?

“Irene, did she go willingly?”, he asked.

“What do you mean? She loves y…”, she stammered.

“Did she go willingly?”, he repeated.

“Peter, you have to understand, she was pressured”, she explained.

“She could have said no, couldn’t she?”, he insisted.

“Come on, Pete…”

“She could have said no, Irene”, he said again.

Irene bit her lower lip.

“Yes, she could”, she accepted. “But…”

He threw his mobile to the window, breaking it in a thousand pieces. Ilizibith could go to hell.

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Uncle Noel
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 121
Founded: Antiquity
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Uncle Noel » Sun Sep 13, 2020 7:33 am

Joint post with Excalbia

Sweyn Castle
Citadel Excalbia
Ten Days Ago


After making it back to his private apartment, James whipped off his jacket and flung it at a chair in the corner. He flopped on his bed and pulled out his phone. Scrolling through his contacts, he came to one labeled “Sweet Sunie” and tapped the icon for voice chat.

As soon as Sunie answered, James blurted out, “Sunie, it’s so good to hear your voice! You won’t believe what’s going on here! The IHA dragged me in for a meeting and…” He paused. “Well, they… they want me to break up with you!”

"Oh?" replied Sunie awkwardly, "Really? Well it's funny you should say that.." She trailed off.

James paused. “Are they pressuring you, too?”

“Well,” she hesitated, “Not pressure exactly. It’s just...well...it’s more that...well the thing you see is…” she paused, “James, I care for you, you know I do, but there is an old children’s story in my country about a bird and a fish that fall in love. But the problem is that the bird cannot breathe under water and the fish cannot fly so they can never be together. Well...in the story there is a magic rock. Is it a rock? It might be a magic turnip. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because the magic turnip-rock gave the fish wings and made it so the bird could swim, and that's where flying fish come from. And penguins. But, what I'm trying to say is that..we don't have a magic rock… "

“Sunie?” James asked. “What are you saying? Are you breaking up with me?”

"What I'm saying, " she replied, her voice distorting slightly as she blinked back the tears, "Is that sometimes fish and birds don't end up happily ever after."

“Sunie, no,” James said, his voice cracking. “We can run away. I can renounce my title. We can move somewhere where we can just be us… maybe Caldas or Knootoss or somewhere far away from the Western Atlantic… We can be together. Just you and me.”

“No, James, please, you’re not listening to me. You have to see that some obligations are easier to walk away from than others. I’m sorry James, we’ve had some wonderful times together, and you are the sweetest, kindest man I have ever met. But there are things that I cannot walk away from.” She paused to compose herself. “I know you’d walk away from it all, but there is so much good you can do. You need someone who compliments you in your position, not someone who would take you away from it.”

“S...so,”James said, “you… you want to do this? You want to choose… choose your obligations over me? Over us?”

She thought back ashamedly to her conversation with her grandfather, her guilty conscience causing her to respond in anger. "You wouldn't understand," she snapped, "I love you James but sometimes...sometimes. This isn't one of your stupid Excalbian soap operas. Sometimes love isn't enough."

“I… I hope you’ll be happy with the choice you’ve made, Sunie. I… I really do.” James hit the red icon to disconnect the phone. He sat on his bed, staring at the phone. He brought Sunie’s contact information back up on his screen and his finger hovered over the green call icon for several seconds.

Suddenly, James made a guttural grunt and flung his phone against the wall. It left a sizable hole in the plaster before shattering against the 17th century stonework below.

The Prince stood and grabbed his jacket, throwing his door open.

“Your Imperial Highness,” a steward said bowing, “I… I heard a noise. Is everything alright?”

James bit his lip and glared. Then he said, “I need a seat on the next flight to Landing. I’ll be leaving my car at the airport.”

“Of course, Sir,” the steward said.

Ayotochco Palace
Itztlan


Suniefreda clasped the phone to her. ‘Oh James,’ she thought, tears running down her cheeks. She looked up and saw a figure standing on a box dressed in a uniform of dark purple with lashings of gold brocade. It was her. The People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs had once issued its ambassadors and high-ranking officials with a diplomatic uniform; an old custom but one that Sunie was keen to revive.

“This really is much too much,” she said to the figure in the mirror. The tailor, who had been waiting respectfully in the next room, walked in. “Did you say something comrade?” she asked in a cheery voice.

Sunie wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “No,” she said, composing herself, “I mean, yes, these sleeves are much too much. You will have to take them in.”

“Of course comrade.”

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Excalbia
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1200
Founded: Antiquity
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:45 am

The Penthouse Residence of Lord Tariq
City of Landing, Excalbia
Five Days Ago


“Jay,” Lord Tariq said, knocking on the closed door. “Come on, brother. Open up. We need to talk.”

“Just leave me alone, TQ,” Prince James’ muffled voice came from the other side of the door.

“No. I’m not leaving you alone. You can tell your brother to **** off, hang up on your Father and grunt at your Mother, but you can’t pull that **** on me, brother.” Tariq leaned his head against the door. “You came to me, remember? I’ve let you drink my booze and crash in my guest suite, but you can’t just keep hiding like this. Let me in.”

There was the sound of muttered cursing, shuffling feet and door unlocking. “Have it your way, TQ,” the muffled voice said, followed by the sound of the bed creaking.

Tariq opened the door, casting light into the otherwise dark room. “Brother,” he said flipping a switch, “you need to stop hiding out in here like an emo vampire.” Tariq walked over and pulled a chair over the bed facing the bare-chested and unkempt prince. He sat down and leaned forward, folding his hands in front of him.

“Talk.”

“TQ…”

“You knew I’d eventually make you talk. So, talk, damn you, Jay.”

James sat up and leaned forward, mirroring Tariq’s posture. “You were right, TQ. Sunie wasn’t right for me. Never was.”

“Bull****.” Tariq said softly. “I never said that, Jay. I only said that you were a little young and far too eligible to settle down so quickly. I always liked Sunie. She was good for you. Made you grow up a bit…”

“She cut out my heart and spit on it.”

“That’s a little melodramatic, brother.” Tariq smiled. “You look awfully alive for a man with no heart.”

“**** you, TQ.”

“I know this hurts, Jay. And I’d do anything to make it better. But I can’t. No one can. Not me. Not Joseph. Not your Mother or Father. Not even Sunie could make it better now, if she came running back to you.” Tariq let out a breath. “Only you can make it better, Jay. Only you. And the first step is to get the **** out of this room. Clean yourself up and come down to the party tonight. Get back on the horse, so to speak.”

“I don’t want to go to your damn party, TQ.”

“Of course you don’t. But you should. Fake it until you make it, brother.” Tariq smiled. “If you stay holed up in here, you’re going to end up some pale, skinny, pathetic hermit dude with greasy hair, and long nails saving his pee in mason jars.”

James looked up Tariq. “What? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“And neither does hiding in here. You want me to send some of my people in here to get you cleaned up and dressed?”

“I can do that for myself.”

“Great.” Tariq leaned back in his and crossed his left leg over the right. “Get to it; I’ll wait here.”

The Penthouse Residence of Lord Tariq
City of Landing, Excalbia
Today

Prince James, Baron of Parnu, looked at himself in the mirror. He saw a sad, broken man. Despite two nights of partying, and inviting more than a couple of young women back to his room, he felt numb. Empty like the vacant eyes staring back at him. He leaned over the sink, splashed some water in his face, rubbed his eyes, tousled his hair and adjusted his jacket.

James slapped his best grin on his face and looked back to the mirror. Now, he saw a reasonable approximation of the young, playboy prince everyone would be expecting to see. He drew a sharp breath and slowly let it out. He glanced down at his watch - the thought crossed his mind that it probably cost more than most families in Anahuac made in a year or maybe two. It was past time to go to the party; it would be in full swing by now.

With a sigh, James turned and walked out of the bathroom. He closed the closet door to his right and gave the bedroom a glance. Tariq’s staff had cleaned it and tidied, so it was ready for whomever the prince might invite to join him this evening.

James paused at the door. He pulled his new phone out of his pocket. It had imported his contacts from the old phone, so he knew Sunie’s number was in it. He unlocked it and scrolled to her number. He stared at it for several moments, before locking the screen and shoving it back in his pocket.

The Prince opened the door, walked down the hall, through another door and down to Tariq’s private balcony and on to the VIP balcony below that.

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Cyretopolitania
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Founded: Apr 27, 2011
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Cyretopolitania » Mon Sep 14, 2020 11:46 am

The Penthouse Residence of Lord Tariq
City of Landing, Excalbia


Princess Ilizbith was lost in her phone as she tried to follow her cousin, Lady Hannah of Gafsa, through the entryway and into the penthouse.

Sensing that her cousin was falling behind, Hannah stopped and turned her head. “Ilizibith? What are you doing?”

Ilizibith looked up. “Uh…”

“Are you still texting Peter?” Hannah put her right hand on her hips, as the left continued to hold the red clutch that matched her dress and heels.

Ilizibith nodded. “I just don’t know why he won’t answer me. I’ve called him and texted him for two days. Nothing.” She frowned at her cousin. “I want him to know why I’m here… And that this doesn’t change how I feel about him. I just have to do this for my parents, so they’ll believe me when I tell them that he is the one I want…”

Hannah gave a sympathetic smile. “I’m sorry, Lizzie. I’m afraid he may have found out you were coming and freaked out about it. Sadly, that’d be in keeping with his past behaviour…”

“Hannah! He’s not that bad.” Ilizibith looked down at her phone. “And who would have told him before I could?”

The younger cousin sighed. “Really? You know there are ears everywhere in the court. I’m sure someone overheard your mother and Grandmother talking about it and told Irene. And you know she’d call Peter if she heard something about them wanting you to meet other boys.”

“Irene? Why? Why would she do something so awful?”

Hannah grabbed her cousin’s white lace sleeved arm and took the phone from her hand. “I’m sure she didn’t think it was wrong or would cause any problems. But regardless, Peter has ghosted you, Lizzie. So, forget about him. At least for tonight.” She stuffed the phone in her clutch. “Let’s just have some fun.” She smiled. “Away from the watchful eyes of the court.” She winked and led her cousin into the penthouse.

The two Cyretians were quickly identified and shown to the stairs leading to the VIP floor.

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Cyretopolitania
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Founded: Apr 27, 2011
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Cyretopolitania » Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:25 am

Princess Ilizibith stepped on the dance floor and immediately turned heads. Her white dress that fell above her knees with a lace bodice and sleeves contrasted with her dark, Mediterrean complexion, and her complexion, in turn, made her blue eyes and shocking blonde hair stand out all the more. Her cousin, Lady Hannah, had a similar complexion and blue eyes, but sported light brown hair. While Lady Hannah was pretty, her cousin was striking.

The two Cyretians stood in a corner for a moment, until Hannah, the younger of the two, pulled Ilizibith onto the dance floor. The two girls began dancing, seemingly oblivious to those around them.
Last edited by Cyretopolitania on Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Excalbia
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Founded: Antiquity
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Excalbia » Wed Sep 23, 2020 8:11 am

Joint post with The Resurgent Dream and Pantocratoria.

The Penthouse Residence of Lord Tariq
City of Landing, Excalbia
Today


As the song ended, Tariq slowed his dancing and, taking Dace by the arm, turned to look over the other guests that had gathered on the VIP balcony. He smiled and led Dace over towards Dame Emma.

“Dame Emma,” he said, releasing Dace’s arm and taking the Caldan’s hand. He kissed the air above her hand. “I’m so glad that you could make it.” He stood and turned slightly towards Dace. “Dame Emma, this is Dace. Dace, Dame Emma Holt.”

“Your Highness,” Dame Emma smiled as she shook hands with Tariq.

Dace smiled and nodded. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve always enjoyed your music.”

“Always glad to meet a fan,” Emma said as she shook Dace’s hand in turn.

“And UltraWoman herself,” Tariq said nodding towards Lilita Vegere. “Lilita,” he said, “come meet Dame Emma.”

Lilita and Julia Sinclair walked over. “Dame Emma,” Lilita said, “I believe we met at the state dinner for the Emperor in Tarana a couple of years ago.” She smiled. “Oh, and this is my friend, Julia.”

“We did,” Emma said. “That seems like so long ago…”

“Dame Emma,” Julia said with a nod.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Tariq said, “this is Dace.” Dace smiled and nodded. “Oh,” he turned to Dame Emma’s companions, “I believe I recognize Prince Andrew. Welcome,” he said. “This is Lilitia Vegere - UltraWoman - and Dace. And Julia.”

“Yes,” Emma said, “This is Walter Budrys, my escort this evening. My fellow musical artist Bianca Ferrera, the actors Raymond Howard and Claudia McGarry, and I’m sure you know Prince Andrew?”

“Good to see you,” Prince Andrew said as he gave Tariq a firm handshake.

Tariq shook the prince’s hand. “And you,” he said. He bowed slightly to Bianca and Claudia. “A pleasure to meet you. You’re always welcome.” Then, he offered his hand to Walter and Raymond, each in turn . “Nice to meet you,” he said to each.

Walter and Raymond shook his hand firmly. “It’s a beautiful country,” Walter said.

Seeing that Tariq and his companion had finished dancing, the Infanta Letizia grabbed Countess Rosalia’s arm. “Come along, Rosalia, let us go meet our host.”

“Yes, Letty,” Rosalia said as she tried to keep up.

“Good evening,” Letizia said as she approached the growing crowd, “I just wanted to greet our host.” She held out her hand. “I am Letizia. Infanta of Providencia. Daughter of the King.”

Tariq took Letizia’s hand and kissed the air above it. “Su Alteza Real,” he said. “Bienvenidos.”

Letizia smiled and looked to her companion. “And this is my… friend. The Countess Rosalia of Santa Tecla.”

Rosalia curtsied. “Your Excellency,” she said.

“Welcome,” Tariq said. “And this is Dame Emma, Prince Andrew, Lilita, Bianca, Claudia, Dace, Julia, Walter and Raymond.”

Letizia smiled at the other guests. “Good evening. It is nice to meet you all here.”

There was a chorus of friendly greetings from the Caldans.

“How is your tour going, Dame Emma?” Lilita asked. “I’m sure it’s selling out!”

“It has so far,” Emma said cheerfully. “Excalbians make great audiences! They’re always enthusiastic and engaged.”

Lilita smiled. “That’s great! I’m hoping to see one of your performances while you’re here.”

“I saw you in Southport,” Julia said. “I told all my followers how wonderful it was and encouraged them to go see it!”

“I had such a blast in Southport!” Emma said. “I wish I’d known you were there. I would have called you up on stage.”

“Ah,” Letizia said, “I have heard your music, Señora. You are quite popular in La Providencia.”

Meanwhile, Mercy Oladipo and William Indulis approached the group. Mercy stepped close to Bianca. “Ms. Ferrera?” She extended her hand. “I’m Mercy Oladipo. I’m a big fan. And a singer, too. I sang a bit earlier and will have another set in a bit. It’s wonderful to meet you!”

“Thank you!” Bianca said as she clasped Mercy’s hand. “I can’t wait to hear it!”

Mercy blushed. “I hope you’ll like it. I write all my own songs.”

“That’s really impressive,” Bianca responded. “Now I definitely can’t wait.”

For his part, William offered his hand to Raymond and, then, to Walter. His eyes lingered over both men and he smiled. “William Indulis. Minor aristocrat.” He gave a small laugh.

Both men shook William’s hand and returned his smiles but Walter’s smile was softer and his gaze lingered longer. “Now you have me thinking you’re a masquis or something!” he joked.

“Just the son of a Baron. The Baron of Baltavirstone.” William laughed. “I’m sure you’ve never heard of it. It’s a small barony in the mountains. Best known for sheep and one decent ski resort.”

“That’s quite all right,” Walter said, “I haven’t heard of any of the Caldan baronies either. They’re barely real places.”

William laughed. “Then you should come and see a real barony. You should come for a visit when the skiing season begins. You’ll see us at our best: skiing, roaring fires, hot spiced wine.”

“That sounds absolutely enchanting,” Walter said eagerly. “I’m afraid I’m not much of a skier.”

William smiled and sipped his drink. “Well, we may not be as cosmopolitan as Landing, but we do have… other diversions.”

As Lilita began chatting with Dame Emma and the Caldans, Tariq spotted Marie-Angelique de Votosoros. Despite her use of an alternate name, he could see that she was aristocratic. And wealthy. And likely Pantocratorian. He stepped away from the crowd and approached Marie-Angelique.

“Bonsoir, mademoiselle,” Tariq said with a bow. “Welcome.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Marie-Angelique said, nodding and smiling in return. Curtseying wouldn’t have gone with her dress either in manner or in length. Instead she offered her hand. “I’m Marie-Angelique.”

He took her hand and kissed the air above it. “Marie-Angelique is a lovely name. I’m so glad you could join us.” He stood. “Pantocratorian, no?” He smiled. “Whatever brings you to Landing, I’m glad it did.”

“Pantocratorian, oui.” Marie-Angelique replied with a coquettish smile.

“Your Grace,” Prince Andrew added. “It’s lovely to see you again.”

“Your Royal Highness.” Marie-Angelique replied with a smile. Now she curtsied, crossing her legs before she did so on account of her short skirt. “How delightful to see you, as well.”

Andrew bowed when she curtsied, though he didn’t seem to have originally planned on it.

“Ah, nobility,” Tariq said. “I should have known, Your Grace. And what does bring you to Landing?”

“I came to Landing for business, to meet with some young entrepreneurs, but I heard that this was the place to come for pleasure.” Marie-Angelique replied.

“Indeed it is, Marie-Angelique,” Tariq said. “A stately pleasure-dome I have decreed. And what pleasures may I offer you?” He subtly gestured to a waiter with one hand and indicated the dance floor with the other.

“Oh, all of them, please.” Marie-Angelique answered mischievously. She gave Prince Andrew a look, which seemed to appeal for his discretion, and then she took a glass from the waiter’s tray, drank deeply, and put it back on the tray, two thirds empty, and then took Tariq’s dance-floor-pointed hand.

Prince Andrew gave a small smile and wrapped an arm tightly around Claudia, who glanced between him and Marie-Angelique in silence.

Tariq smiled and led Marie-Angelique onto the dance floor.

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Ernestria
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Posts: 36
Founded: Oct 19, 2019
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Ernestria » Wed Sep 23, 2020 2:45 pm

A Prestigious Hotel
Landing, Holy Empire of Excalbia


Princess Ewelina scrutinised her reflection in the mirror. Her mind was empty save for the competent application of mascara.

You don’t seem to think very highly of your own family


She stopped at the sudden incursion of an unpleasant memory. Her brow wrinkled.

You shouldn’t underplay yourself, or your House.


She stopped again. A series of expletives rose to the surface of her mind. She tried to carry on.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to the palace. I certainly did


The King of Brasland’s face hovered in her mind as towering waves of embarrassment crashed against the shoreline of her ego.

“The ****ing ****” she exclaimed to the figure in the mirror. Her Imperial Highness was not used to being summarily dismissed and the memory of it burned. “I was trying to show some bloody humility,” she said in answer to the unspoken accusation of her own recollection. The mascara brush creaked slightly as she angrily squeezed it in her hand, her knuckles growing white.

“You say something?” Sitting on the bed, suitably attired in a dress of glittering silver, Laodice looked up from her phone. On the side a PeacockPod belted out a suitable array of club classics.

Ewelina did not immediately reply, instead she turned and drank some more of the sparkling white wine that sat by the mirror. “No,” she replied, “And anyway are you nearly ready to go?”

Birthälm Castle, a few days before

Time seemed to drag these days. From her window Laodice as the gardener dug up those flowers which she had watched him sow with the same measured disinterest at the start of spring.

“I wonder,” she said out loud, “Whether it is possible for one year to feel like five?” On her lap the pekinese stirred in its sleep but gave no reply. It had been March when the present pandemic struck, isolating Laodice with her sister, brother and mother at Birthälm. Father had been in Bodendorf on official business and had to quarantine within the royal palace. She had not seen him since. Even despite the easing of regulations over the summer he had remained holed up in the capital, alone with his thoughts and seeing no one. “Your father is in one of his brown study moods,” her mother had said, “He will be better presently.” There was something about the speed of the reply that gave lie to the false conviction behind it. Her father was not a deep thinker, he himself would probably admit that, so periods of self-inspection were uncommon to him.

She shifted in her chair. Her legs were beginning to go numb from the weight of her dog. When she looked again from the window she was startled to see the reflection of the under-butler who had appeared behind her without a sound. “Ah,” she cried, startling her dog as well, “You gave me a shock.”

“Apologies, Your Royal Highness, but Her Majesty has requested your company.” Laodice found her mother in one of the drawing rooms pretending to embroider.

“Ah,” she said, “Laodice my dear, do sit down. I have such news.”

“Oh?” Experience had taught her to be wary of her mother’s news.

“Yes,” she leaned forward conspiratorially, “The Princess Ewelina has returned from Markund.” Her voice was a stage whisper.

“Oh right,” said Laodice sitting, “That’s, er, nice.”

Her mother frowned. “Don’t be contrarian Laodice, it is not very ladylike. You know perfectly well that she went to woo King Georg.”

She looked into the unlit fireplace. “The viper,” she scowled, “And after we had taken her family to our bosom, that she should betray us in such a fashion.”

Laodice said nothing but motioned impatiently with her hand for the Queen to continue.

“The Princess has spoken to no one of what happened at the Residenzschloss Friedrichsburg, but,” she lowered her voice for dramatic effect, “One assumes that it did not go well.”

“Well no,” said Laodice, “You would assume not.”

The Queen brightened. “You are to accompany her to Landing.”

“Landing?”

“Yes, Landing in Excalbia. She decided to inform us this time, the minx, and she is clearly going for a change of scene.”

Laodice blinked. “Well yes,” she replied, “But why am I to go?” Not that she particularly minded, she was glad of any opportunity to get away from the castle.

Her mother tutted in reply. “Tsk tsk Laodice, you must know. The Princess Ewelina has always been fond of you since you were children together. She may elucidate on what happened with the King, and her loss may be to your gain.”

“Oh right, I see.”

Landing, the present day

Her mother’s plan had worked, in a fashion. Ewelina had been all too happy to expound upon her experience in Brasland, and such was the extent of the wounded Szewczyk Pride, and the corresponding levels of bitterness, that Laodice had vowed never to consent to the union.

“He sounds like such a beast,” said Laodice. Ewelina nodded.

“He was, having his footman escort me off like a trespasser.” She strode across to her phone which lay on the bed. “****,” she exclaimed, “We’re going to be late.”

“Where are we going?” She realised that this was a little late to be asking this.

Ewelina darted around the room as she collected an assortment of items for her clutch bag. “You ever met Tariq?” Laodice shook her head. “Oh he’s great fun, he’s throwing a party tonight. It’s the perfect antidote to put that **** Georg behind me. Now come on, the line between fashionably and unfashionably late is a fine one. You can do your nails in the car.”

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Cyretopolitania
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Posts: 163
Founded: Apr 27, 2011
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Cyretopolitania » Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:55 pm

Joint post with Excalbia. :)

Prince James walked out of his suite and out onto Tariq’s private balcony overlooking the dance floor. Finding no one there, he looked down at the VIP floor one level below. He quickly spotted several notable celebrities and royals chatting in a group and Tariq dancing with a young woman. Then he spotted Princess Ilizibith - it was hard to miss her - dancing with her cousin. In truth, Ilizibith and Hannah were both his distant cousins as well. But then, so were most of the young princesses of the Western Atlantic.

He descended the short flight of stairs to VIP balcony and walked over to Ilizibith.

“Ilizibith,” he said with a smile, “Hannah. Nice to see you. I wasn’t expecting you to be here this evening…”

The two Cyretians paused their dancing and turned to face James. Both smiled and nodded.

“Hello, James,” Ilizibith said, glancing down.

“Your Imperial Highness,” Hannah said with a slight bow - all she could manage in her dress.

“Don’t be so formal, Hannah,” James said, “we’re all family here.” He paused and looked around. “I’m surprised that… what’s his name? Peter? isn't dancing with you, Ilizibith.”

“Well,” Ilizibith said softly, crossing her arms in front of her and brushing a strand of hair out of her face, “um… well… he couldn’t make it…”

“His loss,” James said.

“Exactly,” Hannah agreed. She shot Ilizibith a look. “I was just telling Lizzie the same thing.”

James motioned to a waiter. “Have you had anything to drink?”

“No,” Hannah said. “Not yet. We took right to the dance floor.”

“Well, then,” James turned to the waiter, “three champagnes.” The man nodded and hurried off.

“I’m still a little surprised to see you,” James said. “You don’t usually turn up these kinds of things.”

“Well,” Ilizibith said, looking down.

“My aunt, the Queen,” Hannah said taking a half-step in front of her cousin, “felt that Ilizibith should be… getting to know more… people of her station. She suggested we come to Excalbia and, then, I heard about the party and thought it be a perfect way for her… for us to meet new people.” She smiled. “Or renew old acquaintances.”

Before James could answer, the waiter appeared with three glasses. The prince took two, handing one to Ilizibith and, then, to Hannah. Taking the final glass, he raised it. “To renewing old acquaintances.” He took a drink.

Hannah sipped from her glass, then looked off into the distance. “Oh, speaking of which, I see someone I should say hello to.” She smiled at Ilizibith, then looked at James. “Pardon me, please.”

“Oh course,” James said.

After Hannah had left, James sipped his champagne and looked down at Ilizibith. “Hannah is sweet, but that was rather obvious.”

Ilizibith gave a forced laugh.

“So, what is going on with you and Peter? And with your visit here.”

“Well,” Ilizibith sipped her champagne and looked down at the glass, “I guess that my mother and grandmother were a little concerned that I was getting too serious about Peter too quickly. They wanted me to meet some other… princes.” She frowned. “Somehow Peter found out before I had a chance to tell him myself. Now he won’t answer my calls or texts…”

“Well, then,” James said as he emptied his glass, “Peter is an ass.”

“James!”

“No,” James said with a cold look in his eyes, “if would turn his back on you - one of the sweetest and loveliest princesses in the Western Atlantic - without even having the decency of talking with you… well, then, he’s either an ass. Or terminally stupid. In either case, he obviously doesn’t deserve you.”

The Cyretian held her glass and pulled at her hair. “I… I suppose.” She looked up. “I… I heard about Sunie. I’m sorry…”

James frowned. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that’s a piece of the puzzle.” He shrugged. “Sunie… felt she had a duty to her country. One that she couldn’t satisfy… if we were together.” He shrugged again. “She made a choice. But at least she had the decency to tell me.”

The two young royals stood in silence for a moment.

Then, James reached out and took Ilizibith’s glass. He gave a tight-lipped smile. “But we shouldn’t let others spoil our fun, should we?” He offered the young princess his hand. “Let’s dance. We’ll have fun now, and worry about Peter and Sunie later, ok?”

Ilizibith smiled. “Alright.” She took James’ hand and they walked out and began to dance.

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Excalbia
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Founded: Antiquity
Liberal Democratic Socialists

The Party Ends

Postby Excalbia » Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:01 am

After hours of dancing, James led Ilizibith up the stairs to the penthouse’s upper level and out onto Tariq’s private balcony.

‘Wow,” Ilizibith murmured, as she looked out over the skyline of Landing. “I don’t think I’ve ever been up so high. Except on an airplane!”

James stood next to Ilizibith. “It is an impressive view, isn’t it?” He pointed to the left. “Over there where the lights stop, that’s the bay. You can see the lights of some ships out there. That’s the commercial port. The naval base is a little further to the left, out of view.” The pointed slightly to the right. “That tower, taller than this one, is AzIntel tower - their corporate HQ. And that…”

Ilizibith reached up and touched James’ face. “Shh. Let’s just enjoy the view; I don’t need the details.” She laughed, then walked over to the railing.

James joined here and stood in silence for several minutes. “You should see the sunrise from here. This time of year, it breaks over the ocean first. It’s beautiful.” He paused. “Almost as beautiful as you.”

“I would like to see it.”

“If you stay the night, you can.”

She turned and looked up at James. “Part of me wants to…”

James raised an eyebrow.

“You’re surprised?”

“A little…”

Ilizibith smiled and looked away. “You’re a temptation, James…”

“So are you…”

Ilizibith shook her head. “We shouldn’t. You know that. You’re still in love with Sunnie…”

“But it’s over…”

“Up there,” Ilizibith turned and reached up to touch James’ head, “but not here,” she moved her hand to his chest. “James you should stop trying so hard to prove that you’re over her. Give yourself time…”

“You’re the first person to tell me that, Liz.”

“Well,” she sighed, “someone had to.”

James nodded. “And you’re still in love with Peter, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am, James.” She looked down. “Maybe I shouldn’t be. When we’re together, it’s like it’s meant to be and always will be, but whenever we’re apart, it’s like we’re on different planets… it’s like I’m completely out of sight and out of mind…” James lightly touched her arm. “But I do love him.”

“Then,” James said, “you shouldn’t let him go. Don’t let anyone talk you out of doing what you want to do, Liz. And if he won’t answer you, just march yourself right up to his castle or barracks or wherever he lives and knock on his door. Make him talk to you.”

Ilizibith laughed. “I think I’ll do that.” She leaned towards James and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you for a lovely evening. I hope that you’ll be happy, James.” She turned and started to walk away. “Good night.”

* * *

Tariq’s parties had no set ending time; he let his guests party as long as they wanted. However, he would retire whenever he needed to in order to be ready for whatever the next day held. So, it was not unusual that some time around 11 pm he descended the stairs to the main party floor and did a pass through the guests and party crashers, greeting as many as he could, chatting briefly with several small groups. After a little more than half an hour, he returned to the VIP level. He always made a point to chat briefly with each of his VIP guests.

During this final pass, Tariq made arrangements to attend Dame Emma’s next performance and to invite Marie-Angelique to a private business dinner. He and Infanta Letizia exchanged numbers with a promise to set up a tour of Landing later in the week. Finally, he invited Princesses Ewelina and Laodice to join him and James for brunch the next day.

Before discretely heading up to his private living quarters, Tariq lightly touched Dace Gailitis on the arm. “Come with me for a moment, please,” he said quietly.

Dace nodded and followed her host - and protectee - up the stairs to the penthouse’s upper level.

Once they arrived in what appeared to be a small study, Tariq turned and gestured to a chair. “Have a seat, Dace,” he said as he folded himself into a large armchair. “And don’t worry, I didn’t invite you up here to try to sleep with you,” He smiled.

“And I didn’t come up here to sleep with you,” Dace smiled back.

“Good,” Tariq said, “because I want to offer you a job.”

“A job? I have a job…”

“Yes,” Tariq said, reaching into his jacket and pulling out his phone, “a glorified security guard position.” He opened his phone and began scrolling. “One that is, frankly, beneath someone with your academic credentials and someone who has been at or near the top of every training course you’ve taken since you joined the IHA.” He looked up at Dace. “Frankly, you should be running the Landing office, not reporting that puffy-faced sycophant who’s currently in charge…”

“Are you looking at my personnel file?” Dace half rose from her chair.

“Of course, I am.”

“That’s confidential!”

Tariq chuckled. “Oh, please. The IHA exists to support the Imperial Family. I’m part of the Family. We get away with whatever we want, especially when it comes to the IHA. You know that, Dace.” He put away the phone. “Besides, I’m not looking at medical records or anything really private. Just your transcripts, evaluations and training reports…”

“Why? How?”

“When I stepped away, I had my secretary get them for me. She used to work for the IHA and still has a few… points of access. I’ve been reviewing your records off and on throughout the evening.”

Dace blinked and returned to her seat.

“As for why, like I said, I want to offer you a job. The IHA is underutilizing you, and I need someone to… orchestrate my staff. I have a secretary, security details, household staff and on and on and on. But no one person in charge. A right hand man. Or woman, if you will. And that’s the job I’m offering you, Dace.”

She shook her head. “But why me, you just met me…”

“I pride myself on being a good judge of character, Dace.” Tariq stood and began pacing. “You’re confident and competent. You blend in with my circle. You weren’t starstruck. You didn’t gawk.” He pulled out his phone again. “You clearly have the training and credentials.” He put the phone away. “And I like you. You can have fun while still being in control. That’s just what I’m looking for.”

“I… I don’t know…”

“I’m not asking for a yes or no right now, Dace.” Tariq folded his arms behind his back. “But if you think you might be interested, I can have my lawyers draw up a contract and send it over to you. You look at it and then let me know.”

“I’m not sure, Tariq.” Dace folded her hands together. “This is awfully sudden.”

“Just consider this, Dace,” Tariq said. “Do you want to spend the next decade and half waiting for a bunch of stuffy old bureaucrats to die off or retire so you can have your shot to do what you know you’re capable of doing or do you want to do it now?”

Dace smiled slightly. “I will consider your offer.”

“Excellent,” Tariq reached out to offer Dace hand up, “I’ll have my people send you the draft contract and position description tomorrow. Let me know after you make up your mind.”


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